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Repatriation and (perceived) organisational support (POS): The role of and interaction between repatriation supporters

Liza Howe-Walsh (Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Nicole Torka (Department of Applied Science, NHL University of Applied Sciences and TSM Business School, Enschede, The Netherlands)

Journal of Global Mobility

ISSN: 2049-8799

Article publication date: 13 March 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of and interaction between (potential) repatriation supporters to develop understanding of how this affects the repatriate experience.


A (single) case study strategy was employed, using a multiple stakeholder approach, involving 21 in-depth interviews in a large UK-based institution with repatriates, home and host HR managers, international human resource (IHR) practitioners and line managers from both home and host locations.


Although line managers, senior managers, family members and third party providers (e.g. relocation agencies, tax advisors) are important for repatriation support, the case study evidence highlights that HR professionals are mainly responsible for the quality of the support delivered by other repatriation supporters. Inadequate support from the headquarters IHR department caused by a lack and unclear information about repatriation procedures and related responsibilities results in insufficient support for home and host HR managers. This negatively impacts repatriates line managers (perceptions of) HR support. Weaknesses in the support chain (headquarter IHR, home and host HR and line managers) are responsible for repatriates (perceived) limited or non-support.

Research limitations/implications

The small size of our sample, the single case study design and the method precludes generalisation of the findings. However, the authors’ “look inside” increased the understanding of repatriation support and in particular the support quality. By linking this information to the knowledge of previous studies on organisational support and the devolution of human resource management, the authors are able to identify several topics future studies in the field of repatriation management.

Practical implications

IHRM policies have to reflect the role of multiple stakeholders including home and host line managers and HR professionals as well as third party providers and assign clear lines of responsibility to provide a transparent and consistent experience. Repatriates family has to be acknowledged as a stakeholder that has a major influence on repatriation success and failure. Excluding partners and children issues from international career policies has to be considered as a serious HR shortcoming. Second, ensuring timely information regarding return positions. Providing debriefing interviews upon repatriation can help to identify future roles within the organisation. Equally important is exit interviews to explore whether the person has completed an assignment within the previous 24 months and whether this experience has contributed to their decision to leave the organisation. Opportunities to ensure repatriates are being considered for positions as part of the talent pool is crucial. Finally, the authors emphasise the need to acknowledge that third party vendors are part of the repatriation process and must be considered in terms of (perceived) organisational support.


This is one of the first studies that highlights the role and interaction of (potential) repatriation supporters. Specifically, this study contributes to addressing three knowledge gaps: it identifies a lack of communication among HR professionals and between them and line managers as a potential source of insufficient organisational support; the findings highlight HR professionals responsibility for supporting line managers and other repatriation supporters in operational repatriation management; and finally, the results support the assumption that HR professionals and line managers own (non-)experience with working abroad might affect the quality of support policies and practices for repatriates.



Howe-Walsh, L. and Torka, N. (2017), "Repatriation and (perceived) organisational support (POS): The role of and interaction between repatriation supporters", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 60-77.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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